Hamilton’s choice (2020) is a historical fiction revolving around the life of one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, Alexander Hamilton. He was a man of many accomplishments, from being an able general to being a successful attorney, he had all the titles that one would die for. Hamilton was a long-standing campaigner of federalism and the founder of The Federalists. He believed in democracy and the existence of the union. The story is well-known that he lost his and his son’s life to duels with people who little cared about the union and were driven by their own interests. The book explains the stories behind them, why two lives were lost in the same fashion to duels.
About the author
Jack Casey has handled civil, criminal, and constitutional cases in his solo law practice for the last thirty years. He also counseled New York State legislators and watched as ambitious politicians rose and fell. Casey now brings his insider’s perspective to the rivalry between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. In “Hamilton’s Choice,” his fifth historical novel, Casey dramatizes the last three years of Hamilton’s life and advances a new motive for Hamilton to accept Burr’s challenge and attend the fatal duel.
Casey graduated with honors from Yale University and Albany Law School, and has studied literature at Edinburgh and Cambridge University.
Premise of the book
Philip Hamilton’s death
I have known the founding fathers of the USA and their stories of how much sacrifices they made to make New England or the United States of America, as we know it today. The person on the 10$ bill has interested me, knowing his tragic life and miseries. When I got to know about the book after I got a review copy, I knew it was a chance to dig deeper into the life of the person on 10$ bill, Alexander Hamilton.
The book doe not cover the life of Hamilton from start to end, rather it covers his life after his eldest son, Philip Hamilton gets into an argument with a republican, George Eacker. Eacker blames Alexander Hamilton of treachery in his speech which annoys Eacker. A hot tussle breaks out at the theatre which leads into acceptance of duel by Philip Hamilton. Philip is a 19-year-old boy who admits the challenge to secure the honor and dignity of his father.
Philip procures gun from his uncle, John Church, and swears his to secrecy. Alexander somehow comes to the knowledge of a possible duel and wants to stop Philip. He is scared as a father whose child has invited death but he sees this as an opportunity as Philip’s political mentor. This could be the chance when Philip establishes his political acumen. Alexander keeps this as a secret from his wife Eliza, who hold Philip very dear to her heart and is pregnant with her eight child.
Philip is killed in the duel and Eliza suspects that Alexander knew about the duel. She hopes this isn’t true but Alexander’s eyes say something else. In the heat of the moment, she asks Hamilton to retire from politics and he agrees. They all settle peacefully in the woods away from the madness of New York for around one and half years after Philip’s death.
Aaron Burr and his ill-motives
USA is being led by Jefferson as president and Burr as vice-president. If I were to describe Burr eloquently, I will quote what the author has written in the words of Alexander Hamilton:
“I’ve known our little colonel in both war and peace. Personal power is his goal. He’s a brilliant attorney, yes, and his reasoning is seductive. But appetites, not principles, animate him. When Burr returned from the debacle of Quebec, he asked me for an appointment to Washington’s family. I approached the general, but the general told me, ‘I don’t like his face. He smiles too much. Beware the smiler.’ Beware the smiler, gentlemen. Washington’s instincts were infallible. If you’ve met Burr, then you know. He has the eye of a snake and he’s always smiling, amused by some private joke. His success is based on unerring, diabolical skill in exploiting men’s weaknesses.”Quoted from Hamilton’s choice
Burr is someone who can go to any lengths to get his aspirations fulfilled. This greed takes his to a point where he agrees that he will extend the resolution of seceding some states from the union. The party that Hamilton once led, the Federalists are the ones who devised the plan and took Burr onboard. Hamilton is also asked by Federalists to accept their ideas but he is true to his words and beliefs. But stopping Burr would mean going back to politics which would also lead to breaking his vow that he made to Eliza about quitting politics.
Hamilton tries to convince Eliza to let him be away from his familial duties for a while and stop the secession. Eliza is deeply hurt by this conversation and finally asks him the uncomfortable question, whether Hamilton was aware of Philip’s duel?
What follows thereafter keeps you bound to the book and it keeps you glued, makes you cry when Alexander faces Burr and loses himself in the duel.
Critical review of the book
This is one of the very rare books where I could not find flaws worth mentioning. Also, this book comes with a perfect pace, neither too fast, nor too slow. This is something exemplary for an author to achieve. The history of Hamilton is well-known, but the fiction that has been woven around the story is engrossing. You will not feel like putting down the book till you finish it as it keeps you engaged. The constant presence of Hamilton’s wife and children is indicative of the emotional turmoil that he went through in the last three years of his life.
The book has some amazing talks on law and politics. There is a case, the people of the State of New York versus Harry Croswell where Harry Croswell has been convicted for writing against the president Jefferson. Hamilton takes the case and the arguments he puts forth are persuasive.
“As a newspaperman I see it from the inside out. WE have a duty to print the truth no matter what it holds or whomever it may hurt. Editors can’t be threatened with criminal prosecution based on what we print. It is antithetical to a free society. Our freedoms will not survive if we lack the right to expose the corruption and injustice.”Quoted from Hamilton’s choice
My first encounter with historical fiction was probably through Shakespeare and my interest grew after reading Amitav Ghosh and his books, which are among my favorites. Jack Casey has done an amazing job and his book shines out with other historical fiction writers. I would like to thank the author for providing us the review copy. The book is highly recommended if you love history, law, politics garnished with fiction.